South Africa, host to this year’s summit of the emerging BRICS countries, is not a model for sustainable development on the African continent. 
That is to say, the country, in contrast to Brazil for example, has not made convincing social progress in important areas, such as education, health, social inclusion and unemployment, whereas other African countries are catching up and becoming more attractive to the BRICS countries.
This is the conclusion reached by an international comparative study of the BRICS countries by the German Bertelsmann Foundation.
South Africa has been able to re-establish economic stability and generate notable economic growth after the end of the apartheid regime. However, the growth of recent years has not been able to effectively eliminate social imbalances in society.
According to the study’s authors, the main reason for the extreme level of social inequality and structural unemployment, especially among young people, is a socially selective and qualitatively inadequate education system.
Even though education spending, at 20%, accounts for the greatest share of the South African budget, the country has not yet been able to close the gap to other BRICS countries.
With 3% estimated for 2013 economic growth, growth is approaching the level before the crisis. However, this is still based on non-labour-intensive sectors, such as the financial sector, and does not open up sufficient opportunities for the majority of the population.
Over 50% of South Africans aged 15 to 24 were unemployed in 2010. Country experts attribute the poorest performance in the employment market and education policy to South Africa compared to Brazil, Russia, India and China.
The study makes particular reference to the low average life expectancy in South Africa as an especially striking indicator. In contrast to other BRICS countries and many other African countries, life expectancy fell in recent years and there has only been a slight improvement recently. At 53,4, it still remains behind the average for sub-Saharan Africa.
The experts state that one of the serious development problems is the political system’s major inability to implement policies effectively. The greatest weaknesses are in the co-ordination between the ministries and state authorities at various administrative levels. Financial resources have not been used effectively enough at a sub-national level.
Meanwhile, the economies of other African countries, for example Botswana, Namibia and Nigeria, are catching up. China and India are not the only countries to have long-standing bilateral links to most African countries; Brazil is also becoming increasingly interested in Portuguese-speaking Angola as a gateway to Africa.